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WHO-led joint UN and Red Crescent mission evacuates 31 infants from Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza

WHO-led joint UN and Red Crescent mission evacuates 31 infants from Al-Shifa Hospital in Gaza


A second WHO-led joint UN
mission, working in collaboration with the Palestine Red Crescent Society,
earlier today evacuated 31 babies from Al-Shifa Hospital in northern Gaza, to a
hospital in southern Gaza. The severely ill babies were transported in 6
ambulances supplied and staffed by the Palestine Red Crescent.  Other
mission members included UN Mine Action, UNICEF and UNRWA. The mission was
once again assessed as high-risk, due to the active combat taking place in
close proximity to the hospital. 

These premature and low
birthweight babies had earlier been moved from the neonatal unit in
Al-Shifa to a safer area in the hospital, due to lack of
electricity to run their life support, and security
risks in the hospital. Yesterday and last night, two babies died
before the evacuation could take place. (Note, there were 33 babies
under care yesterday, according to a Ministry of Health update.)  

The babies were successfully
transported to the neonatal intensive care unit at Al-Helal
Al-Emarati Maternity Hospital in southern Gaza, where they are
being assessed and stabilized. Doctors there say all the babies are
fighting serious infections due to lack of medical supplies and impossibility
to continue infection control measures in Al-Shifa Hospital. Eleven are in
critical condition.  

Sadly, none of the infants were
accompanied by family members, as the Ministry of Health has only limited
information, and is not currently able to find close family
members. Six health workers and 10 of their family members, who
had been sheltering at the hospital, were also evacuated. 

The evacuation, which was
requested by health workers and patients during the joint mission yesterday, became
necessary as Al-Shifa Hospital is no longer able to function due to
a lack of clean water, fuel, medical supplies, food, other essential
items and the intense hostilities. WHO remains deeply concerned about
the safety and health needs of patients and health workers who remain at
Al-Shifa Hospital, and in the few partially functional hospitals in the north
that face imminent closure.   

Al-Shifa Hospital, previously the
largest and most advanced referral hospital in Gaza, together with
other hospitals, must be fully restored to provide urgently needed
health services in Gaza.  

Today’s mission was led by
senior WHO staff, including a medical specialist and a
doctor, and representatives from UNICEF, UNMAS and UNRWA as noted
above. It included medical staff from the Palestine Red Crescent Society,
along with their ambulances. WHO is grateful
for their partnership, and the support of the rest of the UN,
working together as One UN. 

The complex and high-risk
operation, occurring in an active conflict zone, follows an
assessment mission yesterday, 18 November, which included public health
experts, logistics specialists, and security staff from OCHA, UNDSS,
UNMAS/UNOPS, UNRWA and WHO. Today’s mission was deconflicted with the Israel Defense
Forces and with the defacto authorities.  

There remain over 250
patients and 20 health workers at Al-Shifa, who all request immediate
evacuation. Planning is ongoing to evacuate the remaining patients, their
families and the health-care workers. Given the complex security and
logistics constraints, these evacuations will take several days to
complete. Priority will be given to the 22 dialysis patients and 50
patients with spinal injuries. WHO reaffirms its respect for the
dedication, professionalism, humanity and courage of the health staff who
have continued to care for their patients under unimaginably
difficult conditions. 

WHO reiterates its plea
for collective efforts to bring an end to the hostilities and humanitarian
catastrophe in Gaza.  We call for an immediate ceasefire, the
sustained flow of humanitarian assistance at scale, unhindered humanitarian
access to all of those in need, the unconditional release of all hostages—many
of whom have serious medical needs—and the cessation of attacks on health care
and other vital infrastructure.   





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